Habana 'starting to stutter'
RWC Mediawatch with Rob Houwing
Cape Town - It is a debate that has raged all season in South Africa, but now seasoned left wing Bryan Habana’s struggle to really assert himself has been noticed further abroad.
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The Springbok star of the 2007 World Cup seems to be losing his lustre, The Guardian broadsheet newspaper in the UK has suggested.
In a generally approving mid-RWC 2011 assessment of the defending champions, columnist and television commentator Eddie Butler, a former Welsh Test player, wrote: “There is one area of interest, or concern, or potential, depending on how you view Habana and Francois Hougaard on the wing.
“Against Namibia, Habana, with his 39th try, went ahead of Joost van der Westhuizen, but looks to have lost the ability to launch the surging runs that were once his trademark ... he has started to stutter, never quite timing his run on to the ball.
“Hougaard, on the other hand, looks a bundle of cranky energy, aggressive, darting and speedy. He is almost the team’s talisman (and) the sign that the Springboks are stirring.”
Butler also fancies that Frans Steyn “has made the No 12 shirt his own” and that “the long reign” of Jean de Villiers is over.
“Steyn looks as if he ate the most at the party but he is playing with aggression and purpose alongside Jaque Fourie who, by way of contrast, seems to have slimmed down and now appears to be running less confrontationally.”
*Meanwhile, New Zealand newspaper the Waikato Times paid tribute on Monday to minnows Namibia’s brave – but now completed -- presence at the tournament, despite another walloping for them at the hands of Wales in their last pool fixture.
“In a few years from now,” wrote Dan Gilhooly, “some of us will still recall the unsymmetrical yet cheerful visage of Namibia’s workaholic captain Jacques Burger, the ambition of fullback Chrysander Botha – whose running was as colourful as his name – or the long-range try scored by lumbering lock Heinz Koll before Wales put them to the sword.
“Farewell Namibia, hope you enjoyed your stay. Four Tests, 16 days, pool of death and all ... a festering sore at this tournament (was) the unfair schedule for the weaker nations.
“Fiji, Samoa, South Africa and then Wales: is it any wonder the young Welsh wizards Warren Gatland wheeled out (on Monday) shredded the tier-three nation’s defence like tissue paper in the latter stages of their 81-7 romp?”